What is Tuberculosis?
TB is an infectious disease that mostly affects the lungs but can also affect several other organs of the body like the brain, kidneys and bones. When the body is weak and the immune system is low due to illness or poor nutrition, the TB germ multiplies and causes sores or holes in the lungs.
TB is a curable disease
A person can be affected by TB but may not be sick. At first, the disease may be symptom-free, but once the lungs are infected it becomes highly contagious – and is easily spread to those around you.
How does TB spread?
The TB germ is carried in the air. When a TB patient coughs, sneezes or spits, these germs are breathed in by a healthy person who may then develop the disease. TB can also affect other parts of the body when the germ is carried from the lungs by the bloodstream.
TB and HIV / AIDS
TB has become a very common infection in people with HIV / AIDS, but even if a person is HIV positive and gets TB he or she can still be cured – as long as the infected person completes their 6 to 8 months treatment.
What are the symptoms of TB?
- Persistent dry cough
- Tiredness, weakness of the whole body
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Sweating at night, even when it’s cold
- Pains in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
If you have any or all of these symptoms, you should visit your doctor, hospital or nearest clinic immediately.
Any person that has a persistent, productive cough for two weeks or more, has to be tested for TB. Testing can be done free of charge at any clinic.
Treatment of Tuberculosis
There are many injections and pills that are used to treat TB, All of which are supplied free of charge to patients by health clinics. Once diagnosed, regular treatment is an absolute must and the patient must continue with the treatment for as long as the doctor, nurse of clinic advises.
The effective treatment of TB is a long process, with new patients having to undergo at least six months of treatment. Patients contracting TB for the second time needs to be treated for at least 8 months.
Medication is often unsuccessful because TB patients when they start to feel better, stop taking their medicine before the course is finished, and they become reinfected.
Prevention is better than cure!
- Cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
- Do not spit – spitting spreads TB!
- TB cannot survive in a healthy body, eat nourishing foods – like milk, brown bread, eggs, meat, fish and beans.
- Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Don’t smoke as it weakens the lungs.
- Every newborn baby should have a BCG vaccination.
- Keep young children and old people away from anyone you suspect may have TB.
The South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA) on (011) 454-0260 for more information on TB.